What could make a cooler brand connection than convincing kids their favorite characters have them on speed-dial? Enter L.A.’s Uvox Networks, which has set up personalized phone messaging networks for the likes of Mattel, Disney and Nickelodeon since launching in 2002.
For roughly US$2.49, parents can jump on-line and arrange for characters including SpongeBob SquarePants, Barbie and Snow White to call their kids and read them stories or deliver custom-tailored greetings for occasions such as birthdays and holidays. The service is currently only available in North America, although Uvox CEO George Rogerson says plans are underway to begin rolling the business out globally in Q2 2005.
Uvox can handle everything from securing voiceover artists to writing detailed scripts, but most of its partners prefer to bring in their own talent. Although he couldn’t talk about the specific details of Uvox’s various property-based deals, Rogerson says the company is open to and well-versed in both licensing and straight-up revenue-sharing models.
Uvox’s service opens doors for its partners to hook up with third parties in cross-promotions involving the sponsorship of free calls. For example, companies such as Mattel and Buena Vista Home Entertainment could theoretically partner with retailers to offer free phone calls with purchase.
Although Uvox’s services are steadily gaining traction in North America, they’ve only been accessible to Internet users so far. But this year, the company is expanding its reach to include wireless phone owners, thanks to a strategic partnership signed with media and technology company Lagardère Active North America (LANA). The group has locked up deals with several U.S. mobile phone companies, so consumers can now text in call requests and then have the charges billed directly to their mobile phone accounts.
Besides taking Uvox into the realm of wireless consumer interfacing, LANA also gives the company a wider range of print advertising platforms from which to promote its services. Lagardère is the third-largest consumer magazine publisher in the U.S., and ads plugging generic Happy Birthday greetings and crank calls started to appear in its Elle Girl title this fall. LS